EUROCHALLENGE F4 EXPERT VIEW
|Michael Koch led Telekom Baskets Bonn to the EuroChallenge quarter-final play-offs (photo: Telekom Baskets Bonn/Jörn Wolter)|
By Dimitris Kontos
Coach Michael Koch, who led Telekom Baskets Bonn to the EuroChallenge play-offs, has had a first-hand experience of two of the contenders that will battle it out at the weekend in the Final Four of the competition.
Bonn faced fellow German side EWE Baskets Oldenburg a total of four times this season, between the EuroChallenge and the BEKO Bundesliga, [won two, lost two] and were eliminated by Russia's Krasnye Krylia Samara in a quarter-final best-of-three series, with a 2-0 score.
The 47-year-old Koch has spent most of his life on a basketball court and won a EuroBasket gold medal with Germany and a Euroleague title with Panathinaikos, as a player.
Those six encounters with the two semi-finalists were more than enough for him to form an informed, and extremely valid, opinion.
Bonn's boss considers both the German and the Russian team as firm candidates to lift the EuroChallenge trophy next Sunday in Izmir, but for entirely different reasons, going down to almost DNA level.
"Comparing the two sides, I think that Oldenburg are more of a team, they play very structured basketball," Koch explains.
"They always know exactly what to do when they run their plays and have various options, they have a post-up game, they have an outside game with [Rickey] Paulding and [Julius] Jenkins.
"Krasnye Krylia on the other hand are very strong individually, they have five very strong American players and three that stand out with their quality.
"[Aaron] Miles, [Chester] Simmons and Andre Smith are their main strength and maybe they are not working as a team in the way that Oldenburg does."
While Oldenburg and Krasnye Krylia have reached the same point coming from opposing directions, Koch believes one strong point of the German side is a fundamentally positive feature for any team.
"In a long season like this, where you have not only EuroChallenge games but also a BEKO Bundesliga campaign, their deep rotation has helped Oldenburg a lot," he says.
"They can bring guys from the bench that will play 20 or 25 minutes, maybe sometimes more if they have a good game, so they are not only deep but also have the quality needed for this rotation to work well.
"These players not only will rest someone else, but bring quality and energy from the bench.
"Jenkins is a good example of this, he is an established player in Germany and in Europe, but he is not always a starter.
"So when one or two guys don't have their best day, they can always make up for it."
|Chester Simmons is one of Krasnye Krylia's main threats on offence|
THE OFFENCE-ORIENTED INVICIBLES
An injury-depleted Bonn fought to the last man in the play-offs and took the second game of the series against Krasnye Krylia into overtime, but could not inflict a first loss in the EuroChallenge on the Samara side.
Koch did however spot a somewhat surprising weakness on the Russian side during those two encounters.
"We were really understrength when we played them and maybe what surprised me a little was that when we mixed it up a bit on defence, threw for example a box-and-one at them, they really struggled against it," he recalls.
"They have not lost a single game in the EuroChallenge, they have so much experience and a point guard of the quality of Miles, and yet they could not handle this change in defence very well."
If that caught Koch a bit off guard it's because the unbeaten Samara team are not dominant defensively, but on the offensive end at least, they seem to have endless resources.
"Defensively, you will find a way to score against them, it's not the biggest problem [they pose to an opponent]," the German tactician explains.
"Krasnye Krylia have so much talent and they focus on their ability on offence much more [than on defensive duties].
"They are tough to defend because they have two or three guys who can easily create their own shot and if you send help [double-team them] they can then find the open man.
"They have good shooters and a good point guard and then they have a one-on-one situation, basically with Simmons and Smith.
"Simmons is a player who, for me, is very dangerous [in isolation plays] because he has the whole package.
"He is tall, he is athletic, he can shoot, he can drive, he can step back - he looks at times like an NBA player out there on the court."
Krasnye Krylia face BCM Gravelines Dunkerque in the first semi-final of the EuroChallenge in Izmir, while later on Friday Oldenburg take on Final Four hosts Pinar Karsiyaka in the second semi-final.